In real life, we might be involved in family settings, circles of friends, and political communities, clubs, and so on. Also, of course, we belong to our workplace network. None of this, though, is as perfect as the make-believe worlds we experience on “Lost” and “Survivor.”
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Tribes and HeroesOn these shows, we return to our tribal instincts and become or empathize with ordinary people who can redefine themselves into the heroes they always wanted to be. Even the worst
like Sawyer in “Lost,” can become leaders and even good people if they choose. They all matter. Their efforts have consequences.
RealityContrast this with a life spent with boring or hideous relatives, bosses who are dictators, and clubs that never elect us as president. Where our efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated. Where our lives can seem meaningless.
Lost SoulsHarsh reality is what partially leads to lost souls like Jared Loughner. Whereas in “real life,” Hurley in “Lost” was most at home in a mental institution . . . on the Island, he was quirky but courageous, and he was loved and appreciated by his fellow islanders. He did heroic things. He was his own best self.
Loughner of course also wanted to be a hero in life. He probably still thinks he was brave for slaughtering people and maiming Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords. John Wilkes Booth also imagined himself as a hero. Unfortunately, unlike even Booth, Loughner’s brain cells are fried, and so he never possessed the skills necessary to be a hero anywhere, not even on the “Lost” Island. Like the characters on “Lost,” he was deeply flawed, and his judgment always clouded. Unlike them, however, he didn’t have a chance of functioning anywhere.
Similar to all of us, Loughner deeply cared about succeeding, about being loved and respected. But he knew he could never achieve these. So, he committed the grave sin of rebelling against the universe and giving in to the foulest darkness. He could destroy those who had it better. He would at least get noticed. People would speak his name. Hence, the smirk.
PerversionIt was an evil “triumph,” though. He will be hated and derided forever now, though he’ll get plenty of the attention he craved. That fifteen seconds of notoriety was the best he could have achieved in life, he imagined. But, was it?
The ChoiceNo. There was an alternative, even for Jared. He could have suffered in silence, eschewing the limelight in favor of leading an undignified life, but with grace. He could have loved his fellow human beings despite the fact that they didn’t reciprocate. This is what the characters on “Lost” did. In contrast to reality, however, the “Lost” characters did get rewarded, in many ways, for their good deeds. Karma manifested eventually, if only through the smile of a pretty girl. In real life, heroes go unnoticed all the time.
The other Jared Loughner’s of the world who do bravely accept their fate, choosing not to harm anyone, are treated like dirt. Some of them are victims of Asperger’s Syndrome. Others have thought disorders. What they have in common is that people reject them. They are ostracized at work. Family and friends won’t talk to them. They never get the girl. They fail economically. Nonetheless, many of these choose to accept their existence, and still send out only good vibes—which are universally misinterpreted.
Condemnation and PraiseSo, I condemn Jared Loughner, who should have treated his fellow human beings with love and respect, no matter what. But I salute all you potential Jared Loughner’s who choose not to go down that assassin path. You are real heroes. I am sorry that human beings are not advanced enough yet to recognize the goodness of your simply resisting evil, but I do trust that God or the universe sees you. I believe in karma, even though it is much slower appearing than in shows like “Lost.”
UtopiasFor the rest of us, all misfits in our own ways, I still hope that society can build something akin to a “Lost” or “Survivor” situation for us. That is what the kibbutz movement has been all about in Israel. It is what the encounter movement was in the ‘70s, the Age of Aquarius, and the utopian societies of communes.
Unfortunately, these movements went awry, due to human nature. They led to Charles Manson Jim Jones, the anti-feminism of Hare Krishna, and so on. Somehow, we can never make living together as idyllic as “Lost.” And you know how un-idyllic even “Lost” was. It was a living nightmare, a purgatory. Yet, on the Island, there was love, heroism, community, and people rising up to their capabilities.
Survival of the Fittest or the Golden Rule?The conservative in me does want survival of the fittest. This is good for the species. The progressive in me, though, desires our world to help afford all good people the chance to be heroes, even in small ways. I want the silent, long-suffering potential Jared Loughner’s to be applauded and given some things they can do in life that will gain them acceptance into society, enable them to make a positive difference, teach them that they matter, and give them recognition.
For “normal” people, I urge you not to ostracize individuals in your society or company who are “strange.” Use your judgment, of course. But most of these folks are far from dangerous, and they have social needs, just like you. Even the Jared Loughner’s of the world, who are dangerous, would be much less explosive if they had a social network of support. Rejecting people just because they are different or confused, will at the very least cause suffering. At most, it can make the vulnerable among them truly dangerous.
We tend to pawn these people off with “they need treatment.” I’ve got news for you (as a former psychologist), treatment might help, but ordinary human kindness is much more powerful. Back to the Golden Rule.
Fry the BastardWhat about Jared Loughner himself? While I might sympathize with his having suffered a lousy life, and gotten a raw deal, he is still an evil man. What he did was horrid. He ought to be executed. Despite his twisted thinking, and social ostracism, I believe he still had a choice.
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